By Michael O Connor.
A shoot out with 43 scores as strong Cork forward play upset and overturned a Clare defence that caved in for the first 30 minutes only to see a spirited Clare fightback nearly force extra time.
The Clare management were able to take the opportunity to try out a number of the panel of the under 21 hurlers in different positions against a Cork side that had a number of well known hurlers who had experience at Fitzgibbon cup level with top scorer Peter O Brien at centre forward. Five members of the extended Clare senior hurling panel were in action namely Cillian Duggan, Jamie Shanahan, Cathal Malone, Bobby Duggan and Shane Gleeson.
Beautiful conditions with flags still met both teams in the curtain raiser to the eagerly awaited senior clash as Paddy Fitzgerald replaced the injured Eoin Enright. Clare were stunned to their core when after three minutes they were in a series scoring deficit and when one thought the malaise had subsided it appeared again with devastating effect.
Unbelievably Clare had let in four goals after 12 minutes and were fortunate that it was only four as their entire back division were under pressure with the low and high delivery. A Clare mistake led to the first goal when Feakle’s Shane McGrath lost the ball and Michael O Sullivan raced through for the score. Shane McGrath made up somewhat when he set up Gearoid O Connell for Clare’s opening score. Peter O Brien (free) and David Drake with the second goal stunned Clare by the 3rd minute as a short puck was intercepted. Peter O Brien, Michael Walsh and Bobby Duggan added points as Clare were in disarray . The power, strength and movement off the ball by Cork left Clare floundering in their wake. Michael Walsh (1-1) put 11 points between the sides as crossfield ball play by Clare gave the ball away. Bobby Duggan hit back with a goal after good approach play by Michael O Neill who was one of the Clare sides better performers. Aidan Lynch hit over a point as did Shane Gleeson and Bobby Duggan (free). Clare were now five behind but once again Cork hit in high ball and reaped the reward as David Drake hit goal number four to leave the rebels (4-4) to (1-5) clear.
Clare decided to go defensive with Jarlath Colleran moving to corner back and Killian Ryan becoming the sweeper as Tadgh Healy was the loose man on the Cork side of the field. The remaining ten minutes saw parity on the scoreboard as Clare hit three from Duggan (2) and Paddy Fitzgerald as the accurate Cork centre forward Peter O Brien did likewise and at the break Cork enjoyed a dominant (4-7) to (1-8) advantage.
Amazingly Clare brought on two subs in the forward ranks for the second half and left the six backs intact as Cathal O Connell and Stephen Ward came into the action for Aidan Lynch and Shane Gleeson. Clare needed a fightback of near herculean proportions to even get into contention for the last ten minutes never mind thinking of winning the tie. John Cronin struck for the opening point of the new half and now Clare were nine points adrift. Bobby Duggan and Cathal Malone hit two in a minute before David Drake who had a high return all afternoon from touches hit another score. Clare were beginning to gain a foothold and a number of referee calls were going their way. Bobby Duggan, Cormac Murphy the busy Michael O Neill and Duggan again had Cork ahead by six points . Peter O Brien who was unmarkable all day was the key catalyst for the rebels in the last quarter when other Cork players were contained.
Cathal Malone and Peter O Brien exchanged scores as a lot of ball was now being directed on top of Bobby Duggan who had an engaging battle with John O Callaghan and indeed the Cork man shaded it even though Duggan was in fine form from frees. Cormac Murphy grabbed a good score for the winners who were stunned slightly when Cathal Malone hit Clare’s second goal and now it was (4-12) to (2-14). Cathal O Connell who was now on the field scored a well worked five man movement just after a quick point from Michael Walsh. Bobby Duggan, Ronan Crowley, just after being introduced, Shane McGrath and Paddy Fitzgerald were all on target as now Clare were within touching difference on a (4-14) to (2-18) scoreline.
Once again Peter O Brien who shook off the efforts of Jamie Shanahan hit two points in a minute from play. Clare never really looked like scoring the important third goal as Duggan rounded off his sides scoring with two frees either side of a Kevin Hallisey point as Michael O Neill received a straight red near the full time whistle. A number of Clare panellists did little to enhance their claims as pace and power turned them over. The winners were served well by Peter O Brien, Michael O Sullivan, Mark Kenefictk David Drake, Nicky Kelly, Alan Dennehy and Tadgh Healy. No Clare defender performed yet the forwards led by Bobby Duggan, Paddy Fitzgerald in patches, Mikey O Neill, Jarlath Colleran and Cathal Malone on a few occasions can look back with any form of satisfaction on this high scoring defeat.
CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan, Cian Nolan CIllian Duggan, Killian Ryan, Gearoid O Connell (0-1), Jamie Shanahan, Enda Boyce, Jarlath Colleran, Shane Gleeson (0-1), Paddy Fitzgerald (0-2), Shane McGrath (0-1), Cathal Malone (1-2), Mikey O Neill (0-1), Aidan Lynch (0-1), Bobby Duggan (1-10). Subs: Cathal O Connell (0-1) for Gleeson, Stephen Ward for Lynch, Shane Taylor for Boyce, Niall O Connor for Nolan, Shane O Brien for Colleran
CORK: Richie Cunningham, John O Callaghan, Alan Dennehy, Barra O Tuama, Ross Cashman, Tadgh Healy, Michael Walsh (0-2), Nicky Kelly, Jamie Wall, Cormac Murphy (0-2), Peter O Brien (0-8), Michael O Sullivan (2-1), Mark Kenefick, John Cronin (0-1), David Drake (2-1). Subs: Ronan Crowley (0-1) for Ross Cashman, Adrian Mannix for Kenefick, Kevin Hallisey (0-1) for Wall,
Referee: John O Brien (Tipperary)